The number of new applications for unemployment benefits plummeted by 71,000 from the week before to 199,000, the lowest level for initial claims since 1969.
The surprise drop indicates that layoffs are becoming extremely rare as employers are increasingly desperate to retain workers and fill open positions. The plunge is good news for the economy, which has been struggling to regain its footing since last year’s two-month pandemic-induced recession.
“Workers remain in high demand in a labor market where payrolls and the civilian labor force remain well below pre-pandemic levels,” wrote Rubeela Farooqi, who is the chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics.
The general trend over the last several weeks has been that new jobless claims have been in decline as the economy improves, although the United States is still short of the number of jobs in the months before the pandemic, when unemployment dropped to an ultralow 3.5%.
The current rate of unemployment is 4.6% after a better-than-expected October jobs report that found the economy added 531,000 jobs that month. While the number of people finding employment has increased, so, too, has the number of people quitting.
About 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September, slightly higher than another record the month before.
The number of people leaving their jobs is the highest since the U.S. began keeping records about two decades ago and is equivalent to about 3% of the country’s labor force.
While the increasing number of jobs shows a recovering economy, the U.S. is burdened with high inflation. Inflation clocked in at 6.2% for the year ending in October, the highest level in three decades.